When describing the distinct sound of Come Back Alice, vocalist & violist Dani Jaye says, “You just got to be rambunctious and put it all in there.” Courageously combining southern rock guitar with funky drums and rounding it all out with quirky classical stylings has made this St. Petersburg band a standout in the Florida festival circuit. You won’t hear anything like them anywhere else.
We spoke with Dani Jaye and Tony Tyler (vocals, guitar) at last weekend’s Backwoods Fam Jam to gain some insight on their intriguing sound and artistic inspiration. We also chatted about the Florida festival scene and some of their favorite improv moments playing with their extended music family. The group is currently prepping their sophomore album for summer release, as well as recording a live project due out later this year – and of course we’re anticipating many more live performances.
Read the interview below:
Your self-titled freshman album set the bar pretty high for us Come Back Alice fans. How do you plan to top it with this upcoming sophomore release? How has your sound grown since your debut?
Tony: You can never tell how the public perception is going to go. We just hope to keep true to the vibe of the first one while evolving into something a little bit different. The third one will be a little different, and the forth one will be a little different. It will still be comfortable for people who were fans of the first one and they’ll hopefully stick with it.
Dani: I feel your musical style naturally evolves over time with whatever you’re listening to at the moment. All the little tidbits and your roots morph into new things you like. You write what you feel and sometimes it comes out in different ways and styles. You just got to be rambunctious and put it all in there.
Explain your creative process. Do ideas just come to you and you write spur-of-the-moment, or do you like to set aside time to write? It seems like Come Back Alice would be spontaneous when creating music.
Tony: It’s a little of both really. We’re constantly singing melodies or humming tunes. I may be working on something that’s almost all the way there but not quite there yet. I’ll show it to Dani then we’ll wrap it up and put a bow on it. Or she may have something almost finished for me to work on. We work on each other’s tunes. We write a lot of tunes together. Then we have the other band members put their spin on it and it comes to life. It’s a very spur-of-the-moment thing.
Dani: Sometimes they come all at once and you’re just trying to get it out before you forget it. Like in the middle of the night you gotta get up and go grab a notepad.
That seems to be the case with most art – it just pops into your head and you have to create it when it comes to you.
Tony: I don’t usually work well if I set hours to write songs.
Dani: You can’t force inspiration. There’s times where I’ll be sitting on a song for about a year. I’ll work on it but won’t be married to it because it just isn’t there yet. Then all of a sudden one day I’ll be doing dishes and then it pops! And then I’m there.
Tony: It’s like, there it is! I’ve been looking for you.
Are you playing any songs off the new album yet?
Tony: We’ve saved about eighty percent of the material from the second album. We haven’t played any of it live yet. We have about eleven or twelve tracks.
Dani: A lot of it we didn’t really know how it was going to sound until we tracked it.
Tony: Until yesterday [laughs]. We just finished it yesterday.
Dani: It’s always a surreal feeling to listen back at the songs when they’re done.
What is the timeline for the release?
Tony: I’d say about a month and a half. We want to get it out pretty quickly. We got all the tracks done – now it’s just the editing.
What is the tour plan? Will you be hitting any new markets?
Tony: Currently we have our own production company and we basically do everything in-house. We’re speaking to some different people who may be interested in the booking for us. We’re looking to do Colorado in the next six months.
Dani: We definitely want to break the Colorado market.
Tony: We’ve been having a lot of fun in Asheville.
Dani: We love the southeast and the whole vibe of southern hospitality. We definitely want to get to the Midwest more and we plan on doing that this year with the release of this album.
Tell us about the emergence of your sound. It’s obviously very unique. Where did the idea come from to combine fiddle with rock and all these different things you have going on?
Tony: Being from Georgia, I predominantly did southern rock. I kinda got burned out on it. For the longest time it was the Tony Tyler Band and I was the front guy. That kind of situation is a lot of pressure. I came down here from Georgia to play with Danny Toler from the Allman Brothers – Dangerous Dan Toler.
I was cutting a solo record in Bradenton. I didn’t know anyone down here; I just packed up all my stuff in my car and went to Florida. I met Dani when she was playing in a band called One Night Rodeo. It was a really good country band, but it was strictly country. She was playing background fiddle, banjo, auxiliary instruments and things like that.
Dani: But I got rock-n-roll in my heart!
Tony: I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come play fiddle on my record.’ That was my pick up line.
Dani: Oh yeah. He got my number.
Tony: We hit it off and I said, ‘Why don’t you just join the band?’ She joined up and it stayed the Tony Tyler band for a short period of time but we wanted it to be more than that.
Dani: When we started writing our own stuff together it formed its own vibe. So we wanted a band name that reflected our mutation. We started a new project and that’s how Come Back Alice was formed.
Why the name Come Back Alice?
Tony: We both found out we are big fans of Danny Elfman and that sparked it. For those who don’t know, he does all the composition for Tim Burton’s movies.
Dani: A lot of people ask what are the weird, quirky sounds I’m rocking. I’m just such a fan of Danny Elfman. It’s theatrical. It’s a little avant-garde and gypsy style. It’s almost like if The Allman Brothers and Danny Elfman had a musical love child.
That’s a great description of your sound. Who are some other people you’re a fan of musically? Is there anyone in particular you’re listening to right now?
Dani: Oh my, we’re a fan of so much. It’s always hard for us to pick a favorite. There are obviously the bigger name influences, but I’ve become very inspired by what’s happening musically within the community here. There’s just so much talent here and they’re personable. I’ve learned to play the guitar and so many things just watching the people around me.
Tony: Our drummer has a very eclectic music taste. He’s turned us onto a lot of bands like Vulfpeck. I’ve been listening to a lot of Coltrane and Herbie Hancock lately. And like Dani was saying, this community is so rich with talent. Every festival you go to you find another favorite band…like, Dumpstaphunk!
Dani: I’ve always been a big fan of Led Zeppelin. When I was growing up, that was my go-to. It’s avant garde, darker rock-n-roll. I’m just a fan.
I can definitely see you being a Zeppelin follower, Dani. It makes perfect sense with your style. You mentioned our local music community, which leads into my next question. We’re at Fam Jam and the theme is a “family affair.” Which acts in our Florida community do you consider to be members of your extended music family and why?
Tony: Heather Gillis is our little sister. We have a kindred connection with the Allman camp since I’m from Georgia and I used to run with those guys. She was playing with Butch for a little while.
Dani: She’s awesome. Every time we get together we try to do an Allman Brothers song with her.
Tony: Also, Roosevelt is definitely a brother of ours.
Dani: And Isaac Corbitt, who is the artist-at-large.
Tony: I remember Applebutter Express from the first time we came up to this scene. It was our first Orange Blossom Jamboree experience and we were gathered around the campfire.
Dani: We ended up back at the Hometeam Camp and Kyle and Shannon walked up at the same time as us. I had the fiddle, he had his guitar. They had the ukulele and we started a little circle. Half an hour later it was an even bigger circle. Then the next thing you know, we were surrounded by people.
Tony: Ajeva are our St. Pete brothers. We actually share a studio building, and a few band members as well [laughs].
Dani: We’re fans of The Heavy Pets too.
Tony: And Groove Orient. This whole lineup is good! It’s such a privilege and blessing to be part of the team. It really is a family affair. We all jam together. We get off on each other’s playing. That’s the secret. If you go into a situation where everybody is closed off in their own universe it produces a certain type of vibe. But I truly am a fan personally. I go to their shows and buy their merch.
Dani: Florida is interesting because we’re kind of tucked in down here. The next big scene is in Atlanta and that’s a good amount of space to travel between here and there. Everyone down here gets to know each other well. We see each other a lot. We have a kindred thing going on.
Tony: I listen to Isaac Corbitt playing harmonica and I’m like, damn I need to work on some stuff. He actually gave me some Harp lessons. I’m not brave enough to whip it out yet. But yeah, it’s inspiring and it drives us. We’re all on the same team.
Come Back Alice will be closing out Thursday night at Orange Blossom Jamboree. They’re also playing at Rok Barrok Bar in Daytona Beach on May 26th and at Surfer The Bar in Jacksonville Beach on May 27th.
(Photo by Christian Cashmir at Litewave Studios)
(Hair & Makeup by Cheyenne Mary Miller at Bella’s beauty bar — with Tony Tyler and Dani Jaye.)